The Montreal Impact will have a 1-0 lead and probably Didier Drogba when it plays the Red Bulls on Sunday in the second leg of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Drogba trained with the first team Tuesday for the first time since refusing to sit on the bench for an Oct. 16 regular-season match against Toronto FC. A few days later, team owner Joey Saputo said Drogba was ready to accept any role handed to him by the team, but he’s not played since that match due to, according to the club, a back problem.
Drogba’s last appearance was as a sub during a 3-1 defeat of San Jose Sept. 28. Of his fitness, he said, “It's a bit better, but not the best, not what I want. But we're working on it. We've been working for days to get back to fitness and today, for the first time, I managed to make two sessions, one this morning and one this afternoon, so, a bit satisfied."
Loanee Matteo Mancosu has scored three goals in two playoff games, including a thunderous strike in a 1-0 defeat of the Red Bulls last Sunday. He’s been impressive in a lone-striker role that frees up Ignacio Piatti to roam, and thus Drogba is unlikely to start in the second leg.
At the team’s training session Tuesday, Drogba insisted the team has moved on from this latest controversy and he implored the press to do the same.
“I think it's behind us,” he said. “Let's focus on what's next, you know, the game. From now, I think you're not going to hear some negativity about what happened, so please, let's try to be positive. If you want to carry on and kill me, kill me. But it's fine. Please don't touch the team, don't touch the club because we have an objective and we're trying to do better than last year.”
Drogba has scored 10 goals and six assists in 22 games (18 starts) this season. Piatti leads the team with 17 goals and also has six assists.